Many people die without making a Will. In legal terms, this means they die “intestate”. When this happens, the estate must be shared out according to certain rules. Individuals who may benefit under these rules are:
- Married partners and civil partners at the time of death. This includes separated partners but not divorced partners or a civil partner if a civil partnership has ended.
- Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, if the estate is over a certain amount.
- Parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews.
- Grandparents, uncles and aunts.
The order in which estates are distributed follow strict rules. For example, if there is a surviving partner, a child only inherits from the estate if it is valued at more than £250,000.
Partners who are unmarried, or not in a formal civil partnership, have no claim on their deceased partner’s estate.
When family groups are affected by divorce, re-marriage, or co-habiting and there are children involved, the actual rights of family members to share in a deceased’s estate can be complex, and may result in assets of the estate being distributed in a way at variance with the unwritten wishes of the deceased person.
The estates of persons, who die intestate and have no relatives, are passed to the Crown under the “Bona Vacantia” rules.
For these reasons, everyone should prepare a Will and make their intentions known and legally enforceable.
Taxation will also need to be considered. Without a Will, Inheritance Tax may take a disproportionate share of an estate. The current rate applied on chargeable assets on death is 40%.
Readers of this article who have not made a Will or considered the Inheritance Tax consequences of their death should take advice now. Failure to do so may create distressing situations for surviving family members and result in a large chunk of your hard-won assets being paid over in taxation. We can help. Please call to arrange an initial fact-find meeting.